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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

1st Bn Northumberland Fusiliers - New Company System 1914


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After finding photos of the NF in their 8 company formation in 1911 http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=202326#entry1987246 I had a quick read of H Sandiland's description of the I/Fifths mobilisation in August 1914:

"A matter of more immediate concern to the I/FIFTH was the reorganisation of the Battalion from the eight company system, under which they had returned from India, to the four company organisation, which had recently been introduced at home. The transformation was not in itself an intricate matter, as under this first reorganisation, there was nothing in the nature of the subsequent "Headquarter Company." It was merely necessary to convert by amalgamation eight small companies to four large ones.

Still, though the conversion was in itself a simple affair, not requiring any essential change in tactics, time was required for the machine to adapt itself to novel conditions and to run with its customary smoothness.

Junior captains, relegated to the position of second-in-command of companies, felt at first that they represented little more than a fifth wheel to the coach; and company commanders at the outset, were scarcely less puzzled as to the precise duties of "company sergeant-majors" and "company quarter-master sergeants" than the colour-sergeants themselves who had assumed these novel titles."


Earlier in this chapter it was stated that, in one respect, the FIFTH were in their organisation not fully prepared for war. The extent to which British infantry battalions were affected by the introduction of a new organisation so shortly before mobilisation has been generally overlooked. Of the officers and NCO's who had some slight experience of the four company system 80%-90% were to become casualties in the first few weeks of the War. Those who replaced them from depots, special reserve or retirement, had had no practical experience of it.

It can, indeed be said that the four company organisation in its true intention was never fully understood or adopted till some years after the war.

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